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Dad: My Body-Positive Role Model

By Katelyn Bebber--To quote Frenchie from Grease, “The only man a girl can depend on is her daddy.” Personally, nothing rings more true than that quote.

Trigger warning: Descriptions of eating disordered behavior.
 

Growing up in a divorced family, the two houses I lived in were polar opposites. I spent half of the time with my mom and stepdad and half of the time with my dad and stepmom. The differences in parenting in these households not only caused constant struggles for adolescent me, but also gave me polar opposite expectations of what being a daughter meant.

From the time I was five, my sisters and I were watching movies that were jam-packed with thin and beautiful women. These women were my idols: they were tall, leggy and beautiful, with great hair and skin. I so desperately wanted to be like these women when I was older; I wanted to be the actress in the school play and I wanted to be the head cheerleader who all of the boys wanted to date.

    Related: Taking Pride in My Recovery Journey

When I was at my mother’s, this kind of behavior was encouraged. At my mom’s, I was mostly subdued and studious; I worked on homework, did chores, read or played with my sisters in the sound-proofed back den. With a new baby in the house, my mother soon became obsessed with giving her the life that I didn’t have. So I channeled all of the neglect I felt into my studies. I worked harder to get good grades and do things that would make my mother proud, something she could discuss when other PTA moms asked about her kids’ achievements. I worked harder to be thinner and more beautiful, a path that would hurt me sooner rather than later.

At 13, I was starving myself to be exactly like the girls I saw on TV. For some reason, I could never get rid of the curves I had in my thighs and bust. I thought that if I skipped a few meals I would be one step closer to looking like these women, and I actively starved myself throughout middle school. I dropped down to the smallest size I’ve ever been. I was constantly getting sick and I became anemic, but I felt that it was worth it for the results. The only thing that began to save me was my father; he was more of a role model to me than anyone else was.

My father is a first-generation American. Both of his parents fled from Eastern Germany during the Cold War to start a new life in America. He dropped out of university and worked harder than anyone I know to provide for me. Although I never got to see him all that much due to his long work hours, I never doubted that he loved me. I could see it in all of the sacrifices he made for me before he got remarried: we frequently moved from place to place, sharing a room in houses in all kinds of cities.

    Related: Becoming Me: How I Took My Life Back from ED

My dad was one of my best friends growing up. When I would go back to his house, there was no emphasis on how little I ate or how much I ate; he just wanted to make sure I was fed. There were also tighter regulations on what I watched on TV and what kind of movies I watched. My father raised me the same way he was raising my younger brothers—as equals. My dad taught me that being myself was important and that women didn’t have to be submissive. For a religious man, womanly submission was always a difficult topic for him; in theory, he thought it was what God wanted, but whenever it came to the possibility of me limiting myself or my dreams, he vehemently (and loudly) disagreed.

My father taught me that being feminine didn’t equate with submission and beauty alone, just like being masculine didn’t equate with being tall, dark and handsome like the media portrays it to be. To this day, my dad still reminds me that beauty isn’t everything, which is something that I need in a society that is so focused on outward appearances, especially since I don’t fit the beauty ideal.

My dad frequently told me that I didn’t need makeup to make myself look better (even though I told him, frequently, that I did it for myself). He said, “Katelyn, you don’t need makeup to take on the world.” Although I had no idea what it meant at the time, I realized that he was telling me that I didn’t need to paint myself into something that I’m not to get places; that I was going to do so on my own merits.

To this day, I still look in the mirror and feel disappointed on occasion, and my eating is still irregular. But I’ve been able to realize that I’m not the only one who feels this way, and that other people in my school who I know and who I’m friends with are suffering and fighting for change just the way I am. No matter how you look, the media will constantly portray women as accessories. Proud2Bme is working to change that, and I’m excited to be a part of it in any way that I can be.

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.
 

About the blogger: Katelyn Bebber is a senior at California State University, Northridge, where she is majoring in journalism. She has a large family whom she loves dearly, despite the crazy shenanigans. Both hockey and public relations own her soul, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

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